Is democracy always the best system?

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )

I've been thinking about a place like Greece in a moment of crisis, but this might apply to the rest of the western nations.

Elections are held and everybody picks the party that makes the nicest promises. The parties are only thinking about how to get elected.

No one ever does anything that might be necessary but is unpopular.

The public only cares about what they see on TV or read in the paper, and these media outlets all have a vested interest in entertaining the public, not informing them.

Parties never think about the long term, because they won't be around then, so why bother?

In these ways, democracy is leading to substandard governments. Can we do anything about it?

Go for it ladies!

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Sylvia - posted on 05/28/2012

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Beth, can you explain for the Aussies and Canuckistanis in the crowd how the fact that the US is a constitutional republic makes it *not* a democracy? (Canada, FTR, is a constitutional monarchy, as is the UK, but we don't feel that makes us not a democracy.)

I think when we say we wish people thought more about important issues when voting, we don't mean that exactly the same issues should be important to all people in exactly the same way. Of course people should vote based on the issues they personally feel are important; that's the whole point. We're talking (at least, I am -- I guess I shouldn't speak for other people on the thread!) about the phenomenon where someone is SO focused on one particular issue that they are not only functionally blind to other aspects of a candidate's record or a party's platform but also extraordinarily vulnerable to scare stories and confirmation bias relating to that one issue. To take myself as an example: I lost my fertility very young, and my husband and I don't have a lot of money, and as a result I am a big fan of funding certain types of fertility treatments that currently are not funded by my province's health plan. So one of the things I always want to know about the parties' platforms in a provincial election is whether they have any plans to de-list what's already funded or to fund other stuff. That's fine and makes sense as part of my who-should-I-vote-for? calculation. But if I start voting *only* on that basis -- if I just tick that "supports / doesn't support public funding for IVF" box for each candidate and then stop researching candidates -- I may end up finding I've voted for someone who supports public funding for IVF but is also anti-choice, supports restricting access to emergency contraception, wants to reduce the minimum wage and slash maternity benefits, and believes anthropogenic climate change is a myth ... all of which are positions I have serious problems with...

[deleted account]

I think it;s better than hereditary monarchies, fascist dictators and most other government models we've seen so far. Certainly isn't perfect but I'd rather vote for a group of idiots than to simply rely on the offspring of inbreds destined to rule (every monarchy used to marry between eadch other so they ended up being all related.) Fascist dictators tend to make life really bad for some and only good for a few. Perhaps we'll come up with a better form of governing as our species continues to mature but as of now, I personally think it's the best way.

Johnny - posted on 05/26/2012

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Direct democracy would be great if there weren't so many morons ;-P California, is another good example of this. The state has struggled under the proposition system, because bad laws can be forced through when enough ignorant people vote for it. Much of their budget crisis has been created by this process. I honestly don't know what the solution is, and while I support democracy, I think it must be accompanied by education and learning about how things really work and an acceptance of something called FACTS by the populace. As long as people continue to ignore what actually IS in favor of the airy fairy dreamland utopia they think things should be like, we're screwed.

Yesterday I heard on the radio a local head of a government corporation here laying out just the facts about the how and the why of the financial situation for that entity. He didn't attack anyone or try to put any spin on it. He just put it all on the table. We have to cut services or we have to raise prices, and we may have to do both and these are the reasons why. It was so refreshing, informative, and even though I have my own bias in this issue, it actually changed my mind a bit. Because no matter how I wish things could be, the facts just aren't going to let that happen. But I'm still thankful there isn't going to be a vote on it, because I know how people are. They'd still insist that he somehow manage to pull a magic bunny out of his ass and cut prices while increasing service. Because people are too often self-absorbed morons.

Sylvia - posted on 05/27/2012

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Winston Churchill (I think -- I could be wrong) is supposed to have said something like "Democracy is the worst system of government, except for all those other forms which have been tried from time to time." IOW, democracy is in many ways a terrible idea -- it's inefficient, it's messy, it's expensive, it takes ages to make decisions, etc. -- but every other system is worse.

The thing about democracy is, at least when the politicians in power abuse their position, you can vote for somebody else next time -- you've got more than one candidate to vote for, and it's very unlikely that incumbent will refuse to leave office when he loses. At least when somebody blows the whistle on something like embezzles public money, the response is likely to be a public inquiry of some sort rather than a secret arrest and a firing squad. And so on.

The problem with democracy is that politics generally tends to attract people who *like* being in charge more than people who are best suited to being in charge -- there's often a bit of a shortage of humility, willingness to admit errors, etc., and an oversupply of demagoguery, arrogance, and an eye to the main chance :P And unfortunately what a lot of people want to hear from a political candidate is not "Well, we aren't really sure yet what the solution is to problem X, but here are some things that research suggests might be helpful ...", it's "Problem X is caused by {high taxes / immigrants / people on welfare / lazy bums / Jews / scientists}, so if elected I'm going to {lower taxes / restrict immigration / roll back welfare benefits / stop government handouts / kick out all the Jews / stop funding scientific research} and then you won't have to worry about Problem X anymore!" People don't want to hear, for instance, "Our reliance on fossil-fuel transportation is a big problem, and history shows that when oil prices are high, car companies innovate like a mofo to make cars more fuel-efficient, so part of our plan to fight climate change and wean the country from its oil addiction is a 'carbon tax'." They want to hear "High gas prices suck! Vote for me and I'll make sure you pay less at the pump!" One reason politicians focus on the short term is that voters do, too.

I don't know about other countries (Australia, for example, has compulsory voting, which I think is an awesome idea), but in Canada and the US, voter turnout is absurdly low and a disturbingly high proportion of people who do bother to vote are "one-issue voters" (e.g., they'll vote for someone who's a total wackjob in every respect just because s/he is in favour of repealing Roe v. Wade). I think most Canadians probably know more about the sex lives of the Kardashians than we know about our country's major public-policy issues -- I won't presume to opine about our neighbours to the south, but my impression is that it's worse down there. So we do kind of get the leaders we deserve :P

Karla - posted on 05/27/2012

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I recently read and article claiming that research shows democracy is not the best form of government. Studies show democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and polices. Reason being people will vote for those who are like them, so unless a country has an extremely intelligent and well informed populace, democracy will produce mediocracy.

me•di•oc•ra•cy 
government or rule by a mediocre person or group.

“The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas.

He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills.”

“We're just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. ‘To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people,’"

http://www.livescience.com/18706-people-...

Go Figure.

On the other hand, and from the same source, “Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they ‘effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders.’”

So the answer is not dictatorship or monarchy, and I do believe a representative government works better than a straight democracy, but it is concerning to actually be witnessing this mediocracy in action.

IMO it’s not because of democracy per se that we cannot manage global warming, it’s because of greed and arrogance. China right now is a dictatorship and their modified Communist government has allowed Capitalism without freedoms or representation for their people. This allows for much corruption in a government that is detached from it’s populace; not caring who gets hurt in their quest for profits. Do they care about global warming? No, they don’t even care about a decent pay wage, why would they care about the air we breathe, or the future of the climate?

All industrialized nations are affected by this greed and arrogance, but at least with a representative government we can express our concerns, and with our freedoms we can join forces to fight for a better world.

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Aleks - posted on 05/29/2012

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I haven't read all of the comments yet.. HOWEVER, democracy can work. I mean it has worked for quite a while in many countries.
What HAS CHANGED though is how people look at things while in governement. Well at least this is how I see things.
For some reason, back in the day (more like 1950-60s and before) governements seemed to do things they believed for better of the COUNTRY rather than themselves. So what has changed?

That is the questions we should be asking...
Ok, I gotta go and finish cooking dinner... will finish my thoughts later :-)

Becky - posted on 05/28/2012

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The country I grew up in was a Military dictatorship. Although it was stable while I was there, there was recently a coup d'etat, shortly before their first democratic elections were scheduled to be held. The country has been in upheaval ever since. I don't know if democracy is the best system, but it's certainly preferable to that!

Karla - posted on 05/28/2012

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You being from Australia may not know this but the US isn't a democracy , it's a constitutional republic. So putting the US's voting issues into this really has nothing to do with your original question.

I am in the US and I disagree with this statement. Even though the US is officially a federal republic the US also has democratic qualities in voting rights. Even though we are a republic - voting for representatives, we still vote. Also the research I mentioned done by David Dunning was done in the US. So even though I think a federal republic is more likely to protect minorities, it still has issues as far as voting for the best politician, understanding who most qualified to represent us, and the quality of governance we vote in to office.

Beth - posted on 05/28/2012

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An issue that may be important to you , may not be important to someone else.
That issue that you don't think is what is important may be THE issue to guy down the street.
You being from Australia may not know this but the US isn't a democracy , it's a constitutional republic. So putting the US's voting issues into this really has nothing to do with your original question.

[deleted account]

Thanks ladies for your great thoughts. And thanks too to Winston Churchill, ready as always with a pithy comment!

I agree Sylvia with your last comment about the way many people cast their votes being so silly and irrational. It's long disturbed me that in the US people vote for candidates on the grounds of something like abortion or gay marriage, and meanwhile neglect all really the important issues about running the country and economy.

And in many developing countries people just vote on the grounds of tribe or ethnic group - there's no policy debate at all.

You can only throw your hand up in horror!

Is it all back to the education system? Must we insist that children are taught to look our for the important stuff and not be blinded by trivialities?

Tracey - posted on 05/27/2012

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If a democratically elected government screws up we can get rid of them by voting them out, if we have dictators it is much more difficult.

[deleted account]

OK I take all your points... but - is democracy equal to the challenge of climate change?

We all like our freedoms in the west, but potentially we'll destroy our climate because of political inaction.

Will it be worth it?

I mean, will we tell our kids "we so don't like people telling us what to do that we destroyed your future instead"?

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 05/26/2012

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I watch all the political debates, when I am preparing for an election. However, I do agree that parties only care to get votes and they rarely, really do a hell of a lot when they do get elected. They often go against what they promised. It is a never ending cycle. Although, there are some that do take care of some important details, just not all they promised.

I like the way it works, right now but I do my damndest to be informed.

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